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Teagasc to Provide Organic Farming Courses

A second round of Teagasc training courses for land owners considering converting to organic farming will take place later this month. This follows a strong uptake of the Teagasc organic training courses held last autumn.

Organic farming can be a profitable alternative to conventional farming. In Ireland the sector is growing steadily; at present there are 1,532 organic operators in the country with 48,911 hectares of land under organic production. It is envisaged that the area farmed organically will increase further due to strong demand for organic produce, the suitability of many farms to organic conversion, and Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food Scheme incentives.

Trevor Sargent TD, Minister of State for Food and Horticulture at the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, recently re-launched the Organic Farming Scheme and the Scheme for both on-farm and off-farm grant aid for the development of the organic sector.

Under the Organic Farming Scheme, farmers may enter into a contract for a minimum of five years and could qualify for yearly payments of up to €283 per hectare during the conversion period and up to €142 per hectare upon achieving full organic status. The On-Farm Scheme for organic farmers can provide grant aid of 40 per cent of the cost of on-farm investments, up to a maximum grant of €60,000. For Off-Farm investments, the maximum grant is €500,000.

Following a review of the Organic Farming Scheme during 2009, applicants are now required to submit a business plan to assess their level of farming activity and suitability of the business. The Scheme conditions have also been amended to incorporate completion of an approved training course as an essential pre-requisite to joining the Scheme. This course will be a requirement solely for new applicants who have not taken part in the Organic Supplementary Measure in REPS.

Teagasc Organic Training Courses

To meet demand for new applicants, Teagasc is currently organising a number of approved organic farming courses around the country. These 25-hour courses are FETAC accredited to Level 5 standard and will be run for one day per week over a five-week period, commencing week starting Monday, 25 January. The venues for the Introduction to Organic Farming course are: Ballyhaise, Boyle, Claremorris, Kilmallock, Letterkenny, Oak Park, Thurles and Tullamore. An Introduction to Organic Vegetable Production course will be held at Kinsealy, Co. Dublin.

Dan Clavin, Teagasc organic specialist said: “These courses are an excellent way of learning about what is involved in organic farming across a range of enterprises. They are aimed primarily at those who are considering joining the Organic Farming Scheme but also at anyone else interested in learning about organic farming. The courses meet the requirements outlined by the Minister for new applicants to the Organic Farming Scheme”.

Continuing he said: “The courses involve both indoor sessions and visits to local organic farms. Apart from learning about the principles and standards involved in organic production, participants will also receive training on completing the farm business plan that is required for the Scheme”.

Course topics include the principles of organic production, organic standards and regulations, and the economics and market opportunities for produce. Admission is €200 per person or family and pre-booking is essential. Further details and application forms are available from course leaders:

Pat Barry, Teagasc, Moorepark 087-2138331
Dan Clavin, Teagasc, Athenry 087-9368506
Elaine Leavy, Teagasc, Grange 087-9853285
James McDonnell, Teagasc, Oak Park 087-3293820